Can Gamers play for Freedom? An unlikely partnership between the wife of a deployed National Guardsmen and video gamers across America has been created to support the troops, and is raising quite a few eyebrows in the process. Molly Johnson, who is best likened to a human dynamo, has been working tirelessly to involve video gamers in the support of U.S. servicemen and their families. “I know that early adopters create most of the consumer generated media on the internet,” stated Ms. Johnson. “Video gamers are certainly early adopters and I need them to spread the word online that our troops need everyone’s back-up. Most of our soldiers abroad are on the internet during their free time and I want them to see that America is supporting them.”
The internet is the 21st century equivalent to Armed Forces Radio. Many servicemen overseas rely on internet access for news, information and contact with home. Johnson’s strategy involves mobilizing video gamers, who do in fact generate a tremendous amount of the content one sees on the internet. Gamers are also active in terms of blogging and social network activity. They are prolific in terms of disseminating their views online.
How Johnson is enlisting their help is what is so unique. She first recruited one of the fastest growing massive multi-player online game developers in the world, MVP Networks, to join ranks with her. MVP currently has over 500,000 players participating in two of their offerings—Redline Thunder Racing and Golden Fairway. The company is now donating 100% of the proceeds from those who sign up for either of MVP’s games when they go to www.playforfreedom.com. “The minute I heard about what Molly was doing I signed on,” said Paul Schneider, CEO of MVP Networks. “Many of our subscribers are obviously NASCAR fans and are inclined to assist the military and their families”.
Johnson has selected Operation Homefront to be the recipient of the proceeds from her efforts. “I looked at what Operation Homefront was doing with families of deployed service members and this is exactly the type of program that is meeting the needs of the deployed and returning servicemen and servicewomen along with their families.” Operation Homefront has as its main purpose making a difference in the quality of military family life. “When I started our program emergencies would crop up in the lives of many families precisely when the spouse was deployed thousands of miles away,” stated Amy Palmer. “It seems like ‘Murphy’s Law’ applies the minute after the spouse goes overseas. We are here to help with emergencies that seem insurmountable to the family at home.”
Although there certainly are differing views on the subject of current operations in Iraq, there is little if any debate as to the courage and professionalism of the U.S. military. Support for the troops is universal in that everyone wishes them well and prays for their safety. What is unique about the current civilian efforts during this era of conflict is the number of individuals like Molly Johnson who are stepping outside of their comfort zone to help the troops. “I obviously have direct appreciation and understanding for what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. My husband, in his capacity as a Guardsmen, has been deployed for 3 months so far of a 1 year deployment,” explained Johnson. “I saw how committed he was to the mission and knew I had to help out any way possible.”
Johnson is now reaching out to other companies involved in the consumer generated media world such as E3Flix.com which is modeling itself as a combination of Netflix and YouTube, and In Touch Media Group, an online publicity firm based in Florida, to get her message out on the internet. She has an immediate goal of gaining over 100,000 people to participate in Play For Freedom. “The response I have already received from so many people has been overwhelming,” stated Johnson. “Paul Schneider stepped up swiftly to help out and seemingly threw every company resource he has to get this program off the ground,” she added. Play For Freedom is also supported by AT&T, Boeing, Clear Channel, KBR, Lincoln Property Life, and Pit Crew Live.
It is also easy to see why Johnson is focusing on internet gamers as a resource for Play For Freedom. The video gaming industry is six times as large as the movie industry in terms of annual revenues. Over twenty million males from 18 to 30 years old play video games twenty hours or more a week. Selecting a NASCAR style massive multi-player game was no accident either. Redline Thunder Racing, developed by MVP Networks, is one of the featured games Johnson is promoting as a donations tool which enables her to reach out to the 75 million NASCAR fans making up the fastest growing sport in America.
For those people who are looking to actively participate as supporters of the troops, Johnson’s efforts should be seriously considered. Americans have long been noted for their charity at an individual level. Without any prodding from private or public institutions, tens of thousands of individuals are stepping up to make the lives of all those directly connected to the current war effort easier. Molly Johnson is yet another example of how creative people can be in their efforts to help others.